Teaching Commons > Events > Teaching & Learning Conference > Exploring the Power of Purpose (2018)

Exploring the Power of Purpose (2018)

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DePaul University Teaching and Learning Conference

Friday, May 11th, 2018| bit.ly/tlcon18

The theme of 2018's conference, “Exploring the Power of Purpose,” invited us to reflect on our sense of personal meaning and connection to social purpose as educators. How does a sense of purpose impact the way we teach and engage with our students? And how can we help our students discover and use their own knowledge, skills, and abilities in ways that not only benefit themselves but also the common good?

Our keynote speaker, Emily Esfahani Smith, has extensively researched and written on the concepts of purpose and meaning. Her first book-length treatment of the subject, The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters, offers a theory of meaning involving four pillars: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. She draws from the social sciences as well as examples from literature and the lives of others to explain how we can create communities and institutions where meaning is shared and valued.

Presentations on this year's theme explored Smith’s taxonomy of meaning and also addressed questions such as:

  • What are the benefits of exploring and finding one’s purpose in the context of teaching and learning?
  • How can attention to teaching and learning help to realize DePaul’s Vincentian Mission?
  • How can we, as educators, find our own sense of purpose?
  • How can your teaching support the common good?
  • How can you help your students find the connection between purpose and academic study? Between purpose and career?
  • What is the relationship between personal advancement, social purpose, and learning?
  • How can your sense of purpose impact the way you teach?
  • How can purpose impact learning?


Video of Emily Esfahani Smith's keynote presentation and Q&A session is available to the DePaul University community (requires Campus Connect authentication). You can also watch a recap of the conference, which is available to the public on the Teaching Commons YouTube channel.

Watch Keynote Watch Recap


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About the Keynote Speaker

Emily Esfahani Smith
Emily Esfahani Smith is a journalist and the author of The Power of Meaning (Crown). In this book, Smith argues that the unending pursuit of happiness has distracted us from what really matters—the search for meaning in life. Smith draws on psychology, philosophy and literature—as well as her own reporting—to write about the human experience. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Criterion, and other publications.

She is also an editor at the Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where she advises the Ben Franklin Circles project, a collaboration with the 92nd Street Y and Citizen University to build civic engagement in local communities. Smith was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and grew up in Montreal, Canada. She now lives in Washington DC with her husband. A graduate of Dartmouth College, she earned a master of applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.


This year the conference partnered with Explore Your Purpose, a mission-based initiative at DePaul supported by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges’ Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) and the Lilly Endowment Inc.

The conference was also jointly sponsored by Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) and the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment (TLA). Student Affairs, the University-Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL), and Faculty Council's Committee on Learning and Teaching (COLT) contributed to the planning of the conference, and the Quality of Instruction Council (QIC) provided financial assistance.

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Read participants' takeaways and connect with colleagues on Twitter using the hashtag #TLCON18.

Photos from the event are available on the Teaching Commons Facebook page.